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Urban Cragging

 Urban Cragging

by Jonathan Copp

December 31, 2001

Itís four AM in downtown Manhattan. "Pssst....hey, check this out. Come on in." The four of us escape the alley, following the voice and squeezing through a doorway. As my eyes adjust I see a woman, the voice, black tank-top with ski goggles on her head. "Ok. Stand back. Donít get any closer to that." The dilapidated room, painted in blacks and blues like it had been abused more than once, holds a few wooden chairs and boxes, which we now occupy, and some sort of machine at its center. Then she pushes the button. A criminally thunderous sound wrenches forth from the machine. Atop the contraption is a large dead crab that begins to glow red, smoke piping from one of its orifices. Then, just as an appendage explodes, the soul of the machine begins to reach out. Fibrous arms of electricity, like tree roots, five feet long and as thick as pythons, dance and menace our space. Someone kicks over a chair and steps back, the sound still deafening. Then, as quickly as it had come, the sound and electricity are swallowed into the void. We step back into the alley, predawn glow highlighting flamboyant works of graffiti, and I think, what can we climb today? What...? Isnít that what youíd be thinking?

Build-er-ing (bil-der-ing) v. 1.The art or practice of climbing buildings and other man-made structures. 2. The derelict uncle of bouldering and rock climbing. 3. Illegal (usually).

Youíve heard the headlines. "Suicidal Frenchman scales skyscraper to promote website!" or "Human Fly (really just a fellow out for a scenic solo) risks life and limb climbing the towering John Doe Building." To capture the concept of buildering from the ethereal heights where most people seem to spot it, one must understand the activityís rock climbing roots and rationale. Soloing rule number one: never climb up anything you can not climb down.

Here we are, Wall Street, Broadway, Fifth Ave., the embodiment of the corporate ladder. The streets stream with people working a way to their personal top. Our difference... we are literally climbing these capital edifices. We climb from urine scented alleyways with fabulous quarter inch brick edges, to the pristine granite blocks and corners of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Supercrack of Wall Street is finally encountered where two buildings converge, a perfect hand crack launching into the grey sky. We traverse sandstone around the fort near the Staton Island Ferry Landing and ascend modern art near the Court House. In the crowded areas we examine the ebb and flow, keeping a special watch on the uniformed folk, and bounce into motion when the least attention will be drawn. We lay low, climb high and move on.

From indoor rock climbing gyms, to buildering, to bouldering on real rock if the opportunity exists, for the urban cragger, there are many venues to explore that cerebral connection with the physical. Coming upon the basalt boulders in Central Park was a treat, like finding a real cherry in a Dolly Madison pie. Without saying too much, I enjoy the whole pie. Within it some outlandish flavors and possibilities exist, all as real as we can imagine.

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